Saturday, March 31, 2012

This Week in Texas Methodist History April 1

Texas Conference Commissioners Meet in Galveston to Create Soule University, April 2, 1855

The 15th session of the Texas Annual Conference, meeting in Chappell Hill in December, 1854, authorized a commission to create a school.  That commission met the following April in Galveston and entertained proposals from four groups to provide a location for that school.

The composition of the commission reflected sort of a “cabinet without a bishop.”   It included Presiding Elders of the conference.  R. W. Kennon was host P. E. of the Galveston District.  Solomon Yarborough of Huntsville, Homer Thrall of Rutersville, Daniel Morse of Austin, J. E. Ferguson of Victoria were also presiding elders.  Robert Alexander, the acknowledged dean of the conference, had become agent for the American Bible Society at the previous conference.  Any such commission would have to include him.  The Reverends Josiah Whipple, James Wesson, and John S. McGee also made their way to Galveston to participate.  (Previous blogs have told stories of Whipple, Wesson, and McGee.  Enter each name in the search window to access them.) 

Presiding Elder Kennon chaired the commission.  He opened the meeting on April 2, but read a telegram informing them that Whipple, Morse, and McGee were still in Houston and would arrive later that night.  On motion of Robert Alexander the commission adjourned without acting. 

On April 3 the commission reconvened.  They considered proposals from Richmond, San Felipe, Waco, and Chappell Hill.  All four of the proposed sites were along the Brazos River, and a case could be made for each.  There was, however, no contest.  R. J. Swearingen and William Chappell presented notes and pledges amounting to almost $50,000 in support of the Chappell Hill proposal.  The vote for Chappell Hill was unanimous.
The commissioners named the new school in honor of Bishop Joshua Soule.  The trustees hired William Halsey as president, and classes began.  The Texas Legislature charted Soule University on Feb. 2, 1856, less than a year after the commissioners chose Chappell Hill. 

Soule University enjoyed rosy prospects for success.  It enjoyed the patronage of wealthy Methodists and the East Texas Conference added its support in 1856.   The Civil War and a yellow fever epidemic devastated Soule University, but its legacy lives on at Southwestern University


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